coming clean_11_2

I should have written this blog weeks ago according to my publisher/publicity team’s plan, but I’ve been stalling.  In many ways this blog is a sacred space for me, a place to focus on the person I have worked to become and the person I hope to be.  It is not about the person I once was, but it’s time that I come clean.

That pun was intended. I can’t help it, I’m corny.

As you know, the last two years of my life have been relatively consumed with writing my memoir. Many of you already know what my memoir is about, you’ve found blurbs on Amazon or have received advanced reader copies, but for those of you who read my blog regularly and don’t know what my book is about, here goes…

My dad is a hoarder.

Here are the answers to some questions you might have:

Yes, my parents are still married.

Yes, it is hard for my mom.

No, I’m not a hoarder.

No, my dad can’t just “stop” being a hoarder.  Hoarding is a mental and behavioral disorder that can be rooted in deep psychological scars or even genetics, it is not rational or vindictive, and it is often just as painful for the person hoarding as it is the people in their lives.

I have mixed feelings about TV shows that focus on hoarding. On an emotional level they upset me, I feel protective of the people on those shows, because I see them as people so desperate for help they will do anything…including allowing cameras to follow them around as they live out their worst nightmare. But, I believe those shows bring awareness to a mental illness that has for a long time been swept under the rug and kept secret, when we now know it affects almost 5% of the population. Awareness is a good thing.  Awareness brings research, it means more people in the mental health industry with be trained to help.  And, maybe more than anything else, awareness allows those of us who have felt alone and ashamed know that we are not alone in this.

Yes, I am still close to my parents. They are the most amazing, wonderful, funny, loving parents I could have asked for. I would not have traded them for all the clean houses in the world.

I decided to write this book based on one very specific moment in my life.  If you’ve been reading my blog long enough you may remember a few years ago my mother almost died.  She had gone into surgery for a routine gallbladder removal only to spend months in the hospital in Intensive Care and reparative surgeries. When she was released from the hospital between surgeries I was petrified that she wouldn’t be able to navigate the home she and my dad live in with her walker, she is also mostly blind, which certainly doesn’t help things.  I was also, more than anything, afraid that the open wounds in her abdomen would become infected and that she would die of sepsis.  At that point in my life, I was exhausted, both emotionally and physically, and knew that I couldn’t make her home safe enough on my own and so I did something I had never done before—I told people.  Friends came from all over, they came with pizzas and cleaning supplies, a friend whose mother owns a cleaning service enlisted one of her employees and wouldn’t let me pay a dime.  My friends came to my aid and they never judged me, they never told me I was dirty and disgusting, that they wanted nothing to do with me.  They didn’t tell me I was a liar for pretending I was normal, they simply cleaned and cleaned and cleaned until my parents’ home was as clean as it was the day they moved in.

Yes, I know how lucky I am.

No, I didn’t sugar coat things in my book.  Growing up the way I did was hard.  At one point I swallowed a bottle of painkillers to escape it.  I lived.  Obviously.

Yes, my parents know I wrote the book.  They have been far more supportive than I could have ever asked or even expected—because, at the root of it all, they are amazing parents.

I’m sure some people have questions I didn’t just answer, either about hoarding, or about me, or about writing a book, and I will be happy to answer them in a Q&A post planned for the nearish future.  Feel free to email me questions at kim@thekimchallenge.com or leave your Q’s in the comments.

I know many of you read this blog for its healthy living bent, and you may not be all that interested in learning about my life.  That’s okay.  For those of you who are interested in reading more about me and about hoarding please check out my memoir, Coming Clean.  It was listed as one of Amazon.com’s best books of July, which makes me pretty darn proud.

Proud and scared.  I’m absolutely petrified, but I hope, more than anything, that my book will give people a real understanding, or at least, a new perspective into hoarding—one that they might not see on TV or in the news.